Return to Algebra II: The Effect of Mandatory Math Coursework on Postsecondary Attainment
Friday, November 3, 2017
Picasso (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Using state administrative dataset that links to high school transcript data in Michigan, I evaluate the effect of taking Algebra II on postsecondary attainment by exploiting the upsurge in the share of students taking algebra II. Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC), a statewide college preparatory curriculum announced in spring of 2006, required all high school students entering ninth grade from the 2007-2008 school year to pass a core set of classes, including algebra II, to graduate. Transcript data provides information on students’ course-taking, including course enrollment history and credits, from 2003-2004 to 2008-2009 cohorts and shows that the proportion of students who took algebra II increased from 65 percent to 84 percent, which offers a rare opportunity to measure average return to algebra II than compared to previous papers using instrumental variables estimation. In an OLS regression, students who took Algebra II are 20% percentage points more likely to enroll in 4-year colleges and 2% less likely to enroll in 2-year colleges within 4 years from the year of 9th grade. I proceed with estimating local average treatment effects using the MMC as an instrument. Results indicate that taking algebra II raises the likelihood of enrolling in 4-year colleges within 4 years from the year of 9th grade by 13 percentage points and that in 2-year institutions by 14 percentage points for policy-compliers. The probability of enrolling in post-secondary institutions within 5-years remained similar for 4-year colleges but increased to 25 percentage points for 2-year institutions. The cohort-specific estimates that take into account student sorting into schools and courses indicate that the average return to algebra II has been changed by the MMC. In particular, the probability of enrolling in 4-year colleges within 5 years from the year of 9th grade for 2003-2005 cohorts is 18 percentage points higher for algebra II takers and there is no significant impact on 2-year college enrollment. On the other hand, taking algebra II in 2008 and 2009 cohorts increases the likelihood of enrolling in 4-year institutions by 9 percentage points, which is lower than that for 2003-2005 cohorts, and also increases that in 2-year institutions by 10 percentage points within 5 years from the year of 9th grade. Subgroup analysis by the math preparedness, which is measured by the standardized math test in 8th grade, reveals that the increase in 2-year college enrollment rates for post-MMC cohorts is mostly driven by relatively less-prepared students. Specifically, taking algebra II doubles the probability of enrollment in 2-year colleges within 4 years for the least-prepared student in post-policy period than that for 2003-2005 cohorts. As a subsequent analysis by APPAM, I plan to estimate the impact of taking algebra II on the likelihood of 2-year college degree completion and that of transfer to 4-year institutions and examine how the average return has been changed by the MMC.